Worthwhile Reading

Anthony Kronman, a professor of law at Yale, writes about how an obsessive focus by academia on ‘diversity’ (as that term is now used) is destructive of individuality and the search for truth.

Victor Davis Hanson observes that the Robert Muller’s “dream team,” loaded with Ivy Leaguers, was expected to devastate Trump’s legal team, which had scarcely a Harvard man or woman in sight.

Electricity problems in Sweden – looks like these are being driven by the closing of nuclear plants, the increased reliance upon wind, and the failure to build adequate transmission capacity to collect the wind turbines with the loads.

20 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading”

  1. “increased reliance upon wind”…I took a nice hike yesterday and could see some electricity generating windmills in the distance – perfectly still – and was reminded that we need to be 100% redundant 24/7/365.

  2. When John Dowd resigned from Trump’s legal team, another lawyer from Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice named Andrew J. Ekonomou joined the team. He also has a sideline gig as a scholar in medieval history. Last year I read his excellent book Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes, about a period of turmoil between the Byzantine Empire and remnants of the empire in the west following the Arab conquests. I don’t know if he is a good lawyer or not, but he provides great insight on the roots of the Church’s East-West split.

  3. Of course as we know it wasn’t Mueller’s team, it was Weissman’s team. And they weren’t interested in lawyering, their only goal was to paw through Trump’s team, prosecute any possible process crimes they could create, and desperately try to get Trump to fire them when they came up with zilch.

  4. IN the past when cynical and pessimistic academics contemplated the fall of West to barbarians, they compared the external barbarians which over-ran Rome to internal barbarians which would—or so they prognosticate—devastate Western cities.

    The barbarians which have brought on “problems with the food,” “problems with the electricity,” “problems with the money,” problems, problems, problems have proven not to be alien invaders incapable of speaking a civilized tongue or uneducated, innumerate brutes raised without manners, but to be the best educated, most civilized, most confident graduates of the finest universities of the West.

    It is the educated who reject vaccines, stable electric power, modern farming, budget restrictions—both personal and governmental. Their crackpot theories of economics, biology, human nature, politics, medicine, engineering, immigration, environmentalism, all are promoted and defended by the finest scholarship and science.

    The barbarians who brought down Rome knew civilization when they saw it, and, at least in part, tried to keep it and build upon. Our civilized elite wants to wreck it all.

  5. Eris Guy…Francis Bacon pointed out four hundred years ago that one reason for sedition and mutiny in any polity was “breeding more scholars than preferment can take off”…

    A modern translation of “breeding more scholars than preferment can take off” might be “graduating more PhDs than have any hope of getting tenure,” or, more generally, “graduating more people with degrees than can use those degrees to pay for the cost of getting same.”

  6. Until someone comes up with a storage technology that will allows 2-3 days of wind energy to be stored, wind (or solar) will never be a viable source of energy. It is just way to expensive and way to unreliable.

    We have a windfarm near me in Naguabo PR. 13 windmills, about 18mw nominal (about 4 actual) capacity. One of them got knocked off its pedestal 2 years ago in hurricane Maria. All of the others had their blades shredded but are otherwise OK.

    Yet, even though all that needs to be done is replace the blades, and perhaps some relatively minor repairs inside, it is not economical to do so.

    Even though they have a contract to sell all they produce at 18c/kwh. Even though all the infrastructure including transmission lines has been built it is not economical to repair them.

    Think of that. The subsidy/tax system (local and federal) is so screwed up that building windmills makes economic sense. Repairing them does not.

    OTOH, we have a combined cycle, liquified natural gas, plant on the south coast, privately owned, that sells electricity for 9-11c/kwh and makes money.

    But noooooooo… We can’t have more LNG. Govt policy is to be all solar and wind by 2040 or 2050. Want to build a factory in PR? Plan on having your own generating plant. I was actually told this by a govt energy official at an energy conference in May.

    the mind boggles.

    I would be happy with a nuclear plant at the old Roosevelt Roads Naval station. Which I can see from my house.

    John Henry

  7. JH…”Want to build a factory in PR? Plan on having your own generating plant.”

    I think there is probably going to be considerable growth in the market for on-site backup generation, NOT for occasional emergencies such as hurricanes, but for persistent problems of grid overload and mismanagement. (Not blaming the power dispatchers or their bosses–rather, the politicians)

    Not sure what the mix of small turbines vs internal-combusion engines will be, but people who have serious continuity-of-power-needs (hospitals, factories with processes that can’t be interrupted without major loss, data centers, air traffic control) are in many places going to have to avoid dependence on the grid.

  8. (Not blaming the power dispatchers or their bosses–rather, the politicians)

    The story of Grey Davis and the California electricity crisis is enlightening.

    Wikipedia is unreliable on this story as it is in most political stories.

    In fact, Davis created the crisis through stupidity.

    This is a better account.

    A combination of bad luck, incompetence, and greed doomed California’s experiment with electricity deregulation, but it didn’t have much to do with the universal media scapegoat, Enron.

    On the bad luck side, a drought reduced the amount of hydroelectric power available from the Pacific Northwest. A natural gas shortage later forced some utilities to demand higher prices to meet their expenses and keep the power coming.

    Also, California’s stringent environmental regulations, which make it nearly impossible to build new power plants in the state, made the state energy-dependent, leaving the door open for just such a crisis.

    But it was Gov. Gray Davis who signed off on $42 billion in vastly overvalued energy contracts in 2001. And it was Davis’s state energy traders who arranged for the state to pay prices for energy that were well above market.

    What happened was Davis insisted that utilities, instead of signing long term contracts with power plants, be required to buy electricity in the daily spot market. This resulted in very high and wildly fluctuating prices.

    Ultimately, Enron was blamed for manipulating the market to profit but this was an excuse to protect Davis from the consequences of his incompetence.


  9. Dan from Madison
    “increased reliance upon wind”…I took a nice hike yesterday and could see some electricity generating windmills in the distance – perfectly still – and was reminded that we need to be 100% redundant 24/7/365

    Your point about needing backup for wind energy is a point well taken. Which is why the predictions I have seen for wind energy don’t go above 20%-30% overall. In 2017, wind accounted for 15.7% of electricity generated in Texas. Wind power in Texas.

    In addition, a look at a wind energy map makes it glaringly obvious that southeastern Wisconsin doesn’t have optimal wind speeds. U.S. Average Annual Wind Speed at 30 Meters.Texas wind farms are in the brown-orange-red sector of the map.

    Which reminds me of a story about my paternal grandfather. My father was from Illinois. My Okie mother met him at grad school at the Univ of Illinois. Their marriage was at my mother’s home town in Oklahoma, during semester break. My paternal grandfather came down to Oklahoma a week before the wedding. When the rest of the Illinois contingent got off the train in Oklahoma City several days later, the first words out of my grandfather’s mouth were, “Don’t say a word about the wind.”

    When you’ve got lemons, make lemonade.

  10. Gringo – I now live in a rural area and did the cocktail napkin math on putting in a windmill at my farm to generate my own electricity. Back then, and this was about 5 years ago, the windmill, to be effective, had to be WAY up in the air, and it had an initial cost of somewhere in the one hundred and fifty thousand dollar range. My estimated payoff with current electric bills was around 15 or 20 years. Of course during that time I lose the time value of money of the initial investment so it looked even more terrible. Plus, and most importantly, the wife wasn’t having that thing on the property so that made the math super easy.

    I should try the math again as a thought experiment to see if it has improved any but I suspect not.

  11. Dan, do your ROI calcs include reasonable bets on the lifetime of the equipment? In the many paper exercises I have done over the decades that factor by itself precluded my thinking of wind or solar as more than a project to keep me amused with new technology. Does no good to have a 15 year ROI if the equipment malfunctions needing expensive maintenance in 8, and gets needs replacement status in 12.

  12. From that Bacon essay:
    The causes and motives of seditions are, innovation in religion; taxes; alteration of laws and customs; breaking of privileges; general oppression; advancement of unworthy persons; strangers; dearths; disbanded soldiers; factions grown desperate; and what soever, in offending people, joineth and knitteth them in a common cause.

    Until the late 19th century/ early 20th century, innovation was usually seen as something negative. The ancient Greeks had (at least) two words for innovation. The first was neoterismos. This is the word Thucydides used when he wrote about the Corinthian embassy describing the Athenians as “addicted to innovation”. It means a youthful, reckless spirit. A greed or lust for something, anything new that will destroy the old. Later during the Christian era it was used to describe heresies.

    The other word was kainotomia and came a little later. This was more like a natural change aligned with traditions and the seasons of time. Plutarch used it in his biographies to describe, of all people, Sulla as someone who “introduced great innovations and changes in the government of the city” when he restored aristocratic power and suppressed the tribunes. Kainotomia seems to be used when discussing the innovator rather than the innovations.

    The real distinction between the two words may be that neoterismos is a flood of movement beyond sensible control with uncertain network effects, while kainotomia is more locally initiated and identified with a responsible party who can steer change through more recognizable parameters to a controllable outcome.

  13. Producing more scholars than can be funded with government grants or easy sinecures is a recipe for an unstable polity.

    What producing excess numbers of Trotskys, Lenins, Goebbels, Sars, Maos doesn’t explain is why the scholars who are employed create, promote, and defend academic junk thought. Butler is no Lenin. McKinnon isn’t Trotsky. The worst (and most popular) ideas aren’t coming from underemployed half-wits like Goebbels, but from employed Harvard grads—some on the highest federal courts.

    Do scientists count as scholars? I’d argue not.

    I don’t think America has an overproduction of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, or if it does, how they promote junk thought like “Testosterone Rex,” “Superior,” or “Skin Deep.”

  14. David,

    I actually makes a lot of sense, in many cases, for factories to generate their own power. About 60% of the energy input to an internal combustion engine is lost as heat. Radiator and exhaust in a recip, all exhaust in a gas turbine.

    Cogeneration captures that heat and uses it productively. In a factory for chilled water, air conditioning, heating, steam or something else. If you can use the heat. it is possible to get system efficiency of around 70% or better.

    Standalone combined cycle plants run at 55-60% efficiency. They use the exhaust heat from the gas turbine to make steam and run a steam turbine. That’s why the plant on the south coast can profitably sell at 9-11c/kwh. GE has one in France that they are claiming 62% efficiency.

    The problem for most factories is threefold (assuming they can use the heat)

    1) Cost of the plant

    2) Managerial distraction. You are making widgets, now you have to make electricity too.

    3) Reliability. You either need to have a backup system or perhaps multiple generators. One plant here used to have 8 generators but only ever needed to run 5 at a time. The other 3 were in maintenance and/or available for backup. They rotated which engines were running every day.

    One key would be interconnecting with the main grid, for a fee of course, or forming micronetwork between various users. That takes care of the reliability issue. (more or less)

    Another is third party cogenerators. “Hi Dave, I’m John Henry and I’ll build and operate a cogen plant for you. You pay me $X per KWH or some other scheme.” That takes care of both the operating and capital issues.

    We are slowly inching our way towards this in PR with a law passed earlier this year, I think signed into law, that allows 3rd party cogeneration. Utilities hate it because it introduces competition. I submitted some comments that you can read here https://darkislandpr.blogspot.com/2018/01/comments-on-pr-microgrid-regulations.html

    Utilities have had to connect to cogenerators and buy their excess power at “avoided cost” (that’s a whole ‘nother bag of worms) since the PURPA law of the 70s. But only if the cogenerator owned and operated their own plant.

    I was involved in a 3rd party project in the 80s when I was with Alcon. PREPA, the local utility, refused to cooperate with us unless we owned the equipment and the cogenerator’s people were on our payroll. We claimed it was a lease and we effectively owned and operated the plant. Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Alcon won but by then the plant had closed.

    However, it did set a precedent opening up 3rd party cogeneration and intercompany electricity sales across the US. ANd now PR has a local law basically saying “Yes, and additionally…”

    When we spent 4 months in the dark 2 years ago I started a blog and discussed some of these things in more depth. A bit about the Alcon case is here: https://darkislandpr.blogspot.com/2017/12/alcon-v-prepa.html

    So it is kind of an exciting time

    Be warned, don’t get me started on energy. I tend to get carried away.

    John Henry

  15. A few months ago I had an idea for an article but when I’ve tried to write something, I could not get it to gel. So let me throw it out here.

    Remember those horrible curly cue compact flourescent bulbs? My son was a big believer and tried to get me to use them but I kept refusing. I had about 60 incandescents stockpiled in my basement so I would never have to use them.

    Now we have LED bulbs that use next to no energy and should last more or less forever. I was dubious but, during the power outage when we were on generator my son bought a box at Costco and replaced every bulb in the house without telling me.

    Best thing since sliced bread. Seriously. A month or two ago I was housecleaning and threw away all my incandescents stockpile.

    LED flashlights are the bee’s knees too. Batteries and bulbs last forever.

    So my thought was this: CFs were sort of a bridge technology to get us from incandescent bulbs to LED. We were all happy with incandescent, the switch to LED might have taken a long time. By trying to make us suffer with CFs, when LEDs came along we were ready for ANYTHING that might be better.

    What if solar/wind are similar? We should probably be moving from fossil to nuclear as fast as possible for a lot of reasons whether or not you believe in climate whatsit. Getting from fossil to nuke in one go has proven to be impossible. We have been trying for 50+ years without much success.

    So they (the mysterious “they” behind everything we don’t understand) pump up global whatsit, we’re all gonna die if we don’t get off fossil fuels. But now we discover that wind and solar are the CFs of power. Ahhh… but we have some new nuclear technologies (maybe, maybe not but they make them look new) now nuclear becomes the LED of power.

    As I say, a pretty bizarre idea and that it probably why I can’t get an article to gel. But I figured I’d get it off my chest.

    Thanks for listening.

    I think I’ve mentioned it before but I am a big fan of nuclear. Not the least bit scared about it. Perhaps that is because Admiral Rickover trained me back in 68 and I actually know, or knew, a bit about it.

    John Henry

  16. There is a war going on right now in the LED lighting industry. Most of the LED lighting was made in China with some interesting but niche efforts at reshoring over the past decade. Last year, in anticipation of a trade war, China flooded the market with lights. Now with Trump’s tariffs in place there is more interest in domestic production. However, it takes at least a half decade to get the high tech, highly automated plants up and running in America, and with supply chains so swollen with product it could take even longer.

    The next few years will be interesting. I had thought (albeit incorrectly) that prices would rise in the maturing industry. Now with the new trade policy it looks likely that they will at least no longer be falling.

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